Gift card scams are the latest form of scam making waves on the internet these days when it comes to selling gift cards and buying gift cards. They come in different forms and styles, all of them capable of causing unmitigated financial damage to the unsuspecting victims. As gift cards sales have gone up a lot in the past few years with up to 24 billion USD worth of gift cards being sold, a lot of money is being made off of these gift card scams. As the holiday season is fast approaching, here are a few of the latest gift card scams and how you can protect yourself from them.
Latest Gift Card Scams and How to Protect Yourself
One of the most popular form of gift card scam currently is one in which the scammer goes to a retail store where the gift cards are displayed on a rack. The scammer takes a number of gift cards off the rack, then scans the unique number of the gift cards using a mag-strip scanner which can be purchased for as low as $15 online. The scammer then writes this numbers down and returns the cards to the rack. If the cards have a PIN, the PIN can also be scanned with the mag-strip scanner. Another way of getting the unique numbers and the PIN is by scratching off the coating, copying down the numbers and then replacing the coating with a new sticker which can easily be bought online. Once the scammer has these numbers in their possession, they simply go home to wait
They constantly check balances on the stolen gift cards on the merchants website. Since gift cards are only activated when they are taken to the cash register, they simply wait for a customer to buy one of the gift cards they’ve copied and load it with real money. Once they see a card that has been loaded, they simply drain it of the balance by going on an online shopping spree or transferring the balance to another card. More sophisticated buyers can buy a similar card, load it with a small amount of money and then reprogram the card with one of the stolen unique ID numbers such that they can use the card to shop physically in stores instead of being restricted to online shopping.
How to Protect Yourself To Avoid iTunes Gift Cards Scams
To protect yourself from this form of gift card scam,
- Dont buy gift cards of publicly displayed racks in stores. These cards are the most likely to have been compromised. If you do buy from the public racks, try to look for ones that are not quite easily accessible.
- Always examine your gift cards properly before loading them at the cashier desk. Examine the front and back of the card properly and look for any sign if tampering or replacement of the magnetic strips. If you see any sign of tampering, do not buy the gift card.
- Always keep the receipt of your gift cards. These will make it easy for you to go back to the retailer for a reimbursement if you do fall victim to a scam or you lose your card.
- If possible, try to buy your gift cards online instead of in stores. This gives you complete immunity from this type of gift card scam.
Another form of gift card scam are the ones being perpetrated on online auction sites. Used, counterfeit or fraudulent gift cards are being put up for sale on online auction sites. Buyers buy the cards only the find out they are worthless or already used. The scammers also inflate the values of some gift cards. The buyers find out after buying that they are getting less than what was advertised. Also, some scammers use stolen credit cards to buy gift cards online and then sell them on online auction sites. These are the major forms of gift card scams being perpetrated on online auction websites.
How to Protect Yourself from getting scammed when trading gift cards
Only way to protect yourself from this kind of gift card scam is to completely avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites. Avoid it like the plague. If you wish to buy gift cards online, then go directly to the card merchant’s website and purchase the card there.
One other form of gift card scam is one in which the crooks go to a store, steal blank gift cards, and then return to the store to swap the blank gift cards they earlier stole for cards activated by the store clerks when they purchase them. If the store card does not recognise that the returned card is a blank card, the scammer gets away with a fully charged card.
Of course there is also the “relatives” gift card scams. Scammers pose as distant relatives, police officers, IRS agents and a whole other lot of official personnel. They claim the victims relative is in some sort of trouble with the police or the IRS or other such financial problems. They then tell the victim to purchase a large amount of gift card and send it to help the relative out of the financial problem. Elderly people are the most vulnerable to this form of gift card scam. Best way to protect yourself from this sort of scam is simply to give the supposed relative a call when you receive such a call and confirm the situation from the relative. And if possible, pay a visit to the relative and confirm in person that what they have said is true. And even then, do not send gift cards as payment to anybody as they are not a legitimate form of payment. No police officer or IRS agent will ask for gift cards as payment for any financial crime.e
So in this coming festive holiday season, try to stay smart and avoid all forms of scams. Happy festive season in a long advance.